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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Unusual spellings, awkward truths, and armies in hell

Spelling well is not necessarily a mark of intelligence, whereas spelling badly sometimes is.

Unusual spellings are a reflection of character.

Supersede is not spelt supercede, nor nerve-racking nerve-wracking; and –ize is not an Americanism.

These are a few of the things we learnt in the lunchtime spelling class with Simon Horobin. But we had far more laughs than I ever remember having in spelling lessons at school.

That spelling does matter, if not for meaning, then at least for beauty, was one contribution to discussion, which got nods of approval.

Later in the day, sighs of delight and gasps of approval filled the auditorium as Agnes Agboton and her co-poets presented poems in Gun, the native language of Benin, Spanish, and English. This was pin-drop poetry to write home about.

Rocio Ceron’s style was different but equally transporting. ‘Cortical, cortical, sub-cortical, formas y representaciones.’ – ‘A hand rests on the arc of a kneecap.’

And then, on came Ben, Okri, with his ten ‘rules’ for poetry, and his poems. ‘We need the awkward truth of poetry, a voice that speaks to our doubts and fears. We are born into poetry and breathing. Who can weigh a word against the feather of truth? I wish I could sleep again as a child does at an art show, deep/ with its little drooping head… ' –‘ Let us bring together poetry from all over the world! ‘

We did, and loved it.

Meanwhile, in Highworth Library, Peter Caddick-Adams tackled the grim historic realities of the five-month Monte Cassino campaign, with a title that spoke for itself: ‘ten armies in hell’.

Now we head for day ten of the Festival in much happier circumstances and with much to be thankful for.

Matt Holland
Photo credits: Richard Wintle – Calyx Multimedia